Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Serious Topics in Romance Comics - Girls' Love Stories #146 presents "Abandoned!"

Most of the romance comic book stories are light, and ultimately, carefree tales of love and lust. "Abandoned!" from Girls' Love Stories #146 (October 1969) (which looks to be primarily penciled by Tony Abruzzo) is not one such story. As you will see, it starts out typically enough, but ends in a very unexpected way. Read on!

Susan is gorgeous and one of the highest paid and most elite of models in the industry. Not only does she have her amazing looks and a fantastic career, she is madly in love with her boyfriend, Peter. Only thing is... he doesn't love her.

Peter has competition in the form of fashion photographer, Clay Jones. Clay totally digs Susan, but she is just over the moon with Peter. After a shoot one day just as Susan is leaving, a young model approaches Susan to thank her for landing a big billboard campaign. Oh that Susan -- beautiful and super kind to boot! But, even Susan's good looks and winning personality can't help her keep Peter. When they return to her place he dumps her.

Susan takes it like a champ (because she is classy like that) but the inevitable flood of emotions overtake her. For weeks she stays in her apartment and mourns the loss of her love.

Finally, the tears subside and Susan decides to head back into work. Upon her return Clay is happy to see her, but Susan is emotionally drained and in no mood to deal with anyone. When the young model she helped earlier approaches her for more advice, Susan is quick to brush her off. Frankly, Susan just isn't herself after the breakup.

"So I won't be called the model with a heart anymore!
A fat lot of good that ever did me anyway!"  

Susan is annoyed by everyone and everything -- from taxi drivers to her own concerned mother. Just leave her alone, why don't cha?!

As the days go on, Susan starts to forget about Peter, but at the same time feels little toward anything else. One day when the head of the fashion house (basically her boss) visits, Susan is completely rude to him. Clay approaches her about it but she tells him to shut it. A few nights later Clay pays an unannounced visit to Susan at her apartment. She turns her back to him as he professes his love to her and tells her that he wants to marry her, but he is concerned for her too. She has let the breakup with Peter (a mere setback in Clay's opinion) and its aftermath ruin her. Susan tells Clay that his words are falling on deaf ears and that she feels nothing. As Clay leaves he reminds her that he is there for her, but he also ponders aloud what it will take to shake her up.

The lonely days and monotonous nights continue for Susan, until one evening when she gets a call from Amy -- the young model she had helped before. Amy is in desperate need of help after ingesting a large amount of sleeping pills. Finally, Susan is ripped out of her emotional stupor, and instructs Amy to stay upright and to not close her eyes. Next, Susan calls Clay and asks him to meet her at Amy's place.

Upon Susan's arrival, Amy is struggling to stay awake -- to stay alive. Susan and Clay prop Amy up and force her to walk as Amy cries out, "...All I want to do is... sleep... and die..."

Susan says all the right things to the ailing Amy, and from the bottom of her heart. Susan sheds a tear as she says things to Amy that they both need to hear. Amy slowly recovers and after the long vigil, Clay and Susan quietly walk hand in hand, off into the sunrise. Susan is changed, and for the better. 

Quite a moving story, and pretty heavy for a romance comic, wouldn't you say? Though not necessarily a cautionary tale, "Abandoned!" is unique in that it addresses a topic of such a serious nature. In fact, I can't think off the top of my head of any other romance comic story that involves an attempt at suicide. For the bad rap that romance comics so often get for having reinforced stereotypes and professing love as the ultimate achievement, it is important to note that the suicide attempt in this story is not by the lovesick protagonist, but by a character desperately trying to find her way in the world. I was actually pretty surprised at the turn of events in this story the first time I read it. I am so curious to know what readers at the time thought about such a mature theme, but I have been unable to find any evidence in the letter columns as of yet. So you tell me! Were you a bit shocked at this story as well?


  1. Totally shocked. Imagine people's reaction back when it was published! The only thing that would of sent it over the top is if the 2 women ended up having a lesbian affair. Can you imagine that?

  2. Quite a shocking story, especially considering that it was publsihed in 1969. I'm amazed that both the suicide storyline and the overdose of sleeping pills was not censoreed by the Comics Code. It would be a few years before the Code would even allow drug references. I wonder how many other stories that were on the edge made it past the Code?

    1. Good point, Nick -- I didn't even mention the Comics Code. I suppose it squeaked through because it had a moral implication and her use of the pills was not depicted in a "glamorous" light.

  3. Wow--sorry to get to this so late, but I am someone who actually read this story when it was first published...and you may remember, Jacque, I'm the one who mentioned this story to you a few years earlier, in the romance comics Yahoo list. I remembered this particular story partly because of a personal reason: the two female characters' names are the names of my sisters! :)

    My reaction as a (very) young reader back then? It's strange, but when I was a kid reading this story I was not shocked by the pill or suicide me, such angst and drama were par for the course for the DC romance comics I read. In contrast, the superhero comics I was reading back then were far more veiled, such as that Legion story about Timber Wolf becoming addicted to the lotus fruit (read=drugs).

    And even though it's strongly implied that Susan and Clay will become a couple, I loved how the focus of the story was not on her finding romance--that made a strong impression on me, and it is the other reason (besides my sister' names) that this story has stuck with me for all these years.

    Glad to see you got a hold of this story and posted about this story, Jacque!

    1. Yes, I do remember, Shar! Thanks for writing. I am so thrilled when someone (such as yourself) from the romance comic book's original target audience remembers reading them. Quite a testament to how powerful they were! And thanks for reminding us that the romance comics weren't just about romance, but life in general!